A problem with "realistic" games?

I’m playing Rise of the Tomb Raider on PS4 at the moment and I find that I’m very conflicted about it. On the plus side, I will most likely finish the game, which is a rare thing as I tend to get bored with games part way through and move on to something else, so obviously I enjoy the game. I’m motivated to keep playing it. On the other hand it stretches my suspension of disbelief beyond breaking point at times.

The zero punctuation review touched on the problem briefly. Yahtzee referred to it as cognitive dissonance and talked about the way Lara, a slightly delicate looking young woman, basically goes on a massive killing spree in order to get the Devine Source before the “bad guys” do. The “bad guys” are bad partly because they go on massive killing sprees in order to get the Devine Source and partly because of what they intend to use it for. Where I am at in the story there has been no indication that Lara will use it any more intelligently. She wouldn’t purposefully use it to cause harm, but there is no sense that she knows what to do with it and how to prevent it from causing harm.

Presumably Lara’s killing of hundreds of bad guys is ok because they are “bad”, and their killing of a few good guys is not ok because they are “good”. But this isn’t really justified adequately in the game. We are probably just not supposed to think about it.

I don’t have as much of a problem with this aspect as I do with other more gameplay related issues. The game is, at heart, a platformer. In order to be a platformer there has to be lots of difficult to reach places that require Lara’s awesome jumping and climbing skills to get to. But often when she gets to some ridiculously remote spot she finds an NPC character there keeping a look out over the valley, or in one section, having murdered a horde of bad guys who had been struggling to break through a door, she manages to break through the door herself only to find more bad guys on the other side. I mean, if there were already bad guys on the other side of the door why were the bad guys on this side of it trying to break through?

Everyone in this game must be awesome jumping/climbing types because they seem to leave whole villages in such a state of disrepair that a villager has to risk certain death just to go down to the lake for a swim. Has nobody heard of stairs, bridges that go all the way across a river, or a ladder that reaches the ground?

I think my problem is that the game tries to be a platformer, a world populated with a relatively large number of NPCs, and has a realistic graphical style. These things don’t seem to go well together.

I can swallow Lara Croft making her way via ludicrously convoluted methods to great hidden tombs and old forgotten cities if she is on her own. I can swallow her doing this and finding a bunch of NPCs already there if the graphic style was very stylised (side scroller for example). But I find it difficult to accept that she has to climb the outside of buildings, make 20 foot jumps to hang perilously from a cliff face, then zipline halfway across the map to get from A to B when there are a bunch of NPCs around who also presumably have to use the same method as there is no alternative way of getting around.

It would be different if there was a normal way of getting around, and Lara, having to be stealthy, has to use the hard way, but that is not generally the case. Most of the time there is only one way to get from A to B and that way would be certain death for a normal person yet there are apparently normal NPCs at both A and B who presumably travel from one to the other.

Back to the thread title. Is this a fundamental problem of making a game that looks very realistic but that has very unrealistic gameplay? Cognitive dissonance indeed.

Still, I am enjoying it.

The term is “ludonarrative dissonance”, and is an excellent word to sound like a pretentious tosser, which is why Yahtzee said “Poodonarrative Pissonance” instead. Oh Yahtzee, you comic genius you. :smiley:

Miss Croft is seeking the artifact that her father was professionally discredited for claiming existed. That’s her primary motivation for revealing it. Her father was murdered by the bad guys seeking it. That’s her motivation for considering them bad guys worthy of an ice axe to the face. The father-murdering bad guys are also pushing around the locals. That’s the motivation for their joint effort to stop the bad guys and not murder one another.

I’m pretty sure that she also collects notes and overhears conversations about how they’re going to take over the world and stuff to further drive home that they’re bad guys but her primary considerations are pretty clear.

Less likely to get you punched than “ludonarrative dissonance” is the phrase “Willing suspension of disbelief” which is a requirement most of this stuff. Platforming is a decent portion of the game and boring people with a reason why you need to platform slows the game down so you just accept it for the sake of the narrative.

She does. She even reads some murder porn by a guy who didn’t get any kills in some war (Afghanistan maybe) but after joining up with a Trinity, finally gets one. He waits with his victim to watch the “light go out of his eyes”. Later we learn that he gets a second kill and again sticks around to watch them die. Obviously a psychopath (I had hoped Lara might meet him somewhere, but apparently not.) This is all weak sauce compared to the hundreds of killings Lara does though, many of them just because it is more convenient to murder a bunch of guys than it is to sneak around them. I don’t really mind the mass murdering by Lara, it’s actually the little back story about a psychopath who has killed just two people that stretches the suspension of disbelief, because it invites you to consider the amount of killing the supposedly non-psychopathic player character has done.

I think the issue for me is the meaningless platforming. Mainly the bit in the local’s village. This is supposed to be an area where people live, yet they have to jump from ledge to rock to zip line to get around. You don’t need to bore players with a reason to platform you just make the reason obvious and natural. Of course you need to platform when exploring ancient crumbling ruins, of course you need to platform when trying to get from A to B while avoiding an army of the deathless who are patrolling the normal streets and pathways, these things make sense, but platforming just to get around a peaceful valley and village is a bit jarring.

I finished the game tonight and did enjoy it, don’t mistake my comments for serious criticism, I’m more inclined to laugh about my mass murdering character and the fact the locals are apparently so expert at climbing, jumping, and grappling, that they’d rather not bother with things like steps, bridges, ladders etc.

“Eh bob, that bridge across to the island in the river is broken, should we fix it?”

“Na, I reckon we can just jump across the gap, most of the time, if we get the timing right. I tell you what, just in case, why don’t we hang a big bucket wrapped in rope about halfway across, that way we can shoot a rope arrow at it and swing across on the rope.”

“Good idea!”

“We should probably make it easy to get back though, all that jumpin’ gets tiring, how about we put a zip line from the island back to here?”

“Another excellent idea, and shall we make the zip line the same as all the others? With the end of it too high to jump to so it can only be used in one direction?”

“Of course!”


Here ya go (based on the 2013 game)

The bit with the locals never bothered me. I assumed they were your standard Hollywood indigenous types who know the land and can scamper about like spider monkeys while the new white guy has to sweat and shake as he slowly shuffles along a 2" ledge over a two mile drop. The fact that these particular “indigenous” guys are also white isn’t really important. Point being that you’re in their world now and are less equipped to deal with it.

I should say that I don’t intend to sound like “Your objections are dumb”, just that that particular thing didn’t bother me. I’m as apt as anyone to find some detail in a game that really doesn’t matter but it lowers my own personal enjoyment because it’s just dumb.

Playing Watch Dogs, I spent far too long mulling the fact that they took the time to add the distinctive Fields clock in downtown Chicago, a detail only locals would notice and appreciate, but then put a mountainous logging community where Des Plaines should be. Really guys? Really?

I guess if you I guess if you speed up to the cutscenes you might be missing some of that part of the story.

This is kind of how zip lines work.

They can be climbed in the opposite direction though, the ones that aren’t specifically built to be one way only. There is even a tool that lets Lara climb a zip line quickly, though in all of the story I haven’t had an occasion to use it.

I watched all the cutscenes by the way, I get the story, and I found the story entertaining and motivating, I don’t have an issue with the story so much as some of the incidental stuff.

I will happily accept a button you click to make all interactive parts of the world glow as well ;).

I think it’s a problem with/side affect of the realism of the graphics. It’s a bit like the uncanny valley, the more real the game looks, the more disconcerting I find the unrealistic bits.

I like the game however sometimes the logic takes me out of it…when you first arrive at the Siberian woods, you end up having to kill a bunch of the bad guys before you can attempt to defeat the bear. You kill a bunch of bad guys each carrying a gun and presumably ammunition yet when you enter the liar of the bear, all you have is your damn bow and poisoned arrows…what happened to all the guns the bad guys were carrying? why can’t I kill the bear with a gun?

I just like to think of this as the “uncanny valley of realism”; There’s a point where the game becomes realistic enough in appearance that all that things that didn’t USED to bother you because it was obviously just Pixel Guy bouncing from platform to platform and exploding Pixel Bots with his Pixel Gun suddenly become very problematic.

That’s leaving out all the story stuff though. Sadly, a lot of games are locked into a design mode that says that they “need” to have you do certain types of things, and they don’t really stop to think about how to set that up because it’s a thing that “needs” to happen. Or something.

It’s analogous to the uncanny valley. It’s the same reason navy clothes don’t tend to match black ones.

They’re close enough on summary inspection to look like they’re the same but, on closer inspection, they’re still different enough from each other; They end up clashing because they’re neither matching nor complementary.

To kinda paraphrase John Carmack, if you’re going to include story and characterization in your game, either do a purposelly perfunctory job or a great one, not something half-assed.

One expedient answer to this is to make the story self-generate from what happens in the game.

This is what RimWorld tries to do. All kinds of things can happen to your little pawns, and it tries to make you feel for them, and sometimes succeeds. But there’s no ham handed story forced on you - what happens is determined by your actions as a player + the RNG + the limitations of the game. You are to an extent able to shape outcomes - you’re not forced to confront that bear without a gun, like mentioned above, because the game models enemies dropping weapons, and you can pick those weapons up. If the enemies have a weapon, they will drop it, unless there is a specific reason they won’t. (like it’s a cybernetic weapon or you filling them full of lead destroyed it)

Rimworld is an experimental game by 1 guy, so it’s not got the production values of Tomb Raider, but it does show that solutions to this problem are possible.

This is a valid point, though I think in the specific case of a Tomb Raider game, the requirement to have the classic gameplay elements of the series is pretty compelling. It’s better when they set it up properly, though–even just a glimpse of an enemy checkpoint on the easy route, and a line like, “I’d better find another way.”

The case of this that’s bothered me the most recently is in Narcosis. The basic style of the game, especially early on, is pretty realistic. It’s a somber sort of survival game, as you struggle to cross the ocean floor on limited oxygen. There are some platforming bits that mostly make sense, using the thrusters on your dive suit. So far, so good. Then we come to the part where the developers seem to have been going off some sort of “make a horror game” checklist, and got down to “monsters”.

Unfortunately, the game is “realistic” and set in an ocean on Earth, so they just picked some real marine animals–apparently based on them looking somewhat creepy–and made them into inexplicably deadly threats. The protagonist is plodding around in a half-ton titanium dive suit. (That’s not speculation, the game itself describes it that way.) It’s basically powered armor. Yet somehow, Japanese spider crabs can stab a leg straight through titanium plating, killing you instantly. Angler fish can break your faceplate (which would be likely be made of of heavy duty acrylic or borosilicate glass) by ramming their faces into it. Leaving aside the fact that it’s wildly unlikely for these creatures to attack in the first place, it makes no sense for them to actually be able to damage the suit. (The large squid producing ink-clouds that obscure your vision would actually be a logical hazard, except that they’re also unreasonably aggressive.)

It’s easy to accept these things in a Mario water-level, because there’s no expectation of realism. In a realistic game, it’s jarringly stupid and takes me right out of the story.

Now, now…you need to build your own gun out of parts scavenged from millennia-old tombs…no, wait…that was the previous game. (not joking)

It’s been a clear issue since about the first 30 seconds of gameplay in Tomb Raider (2013), where Lara falls from a sufficient height to break bones, is impaled on a rusty spike (well, rebar), wades through pools of tepid, filthy water, and then… has no further problems. This is something of an oddity with the new series since it’s only realistic when it’s convenient for the plot. Some people care and some don’t.

Hey, come on. She winces a lot and is reduced to walking, for about 30 seconds :smiley:

What always annoyed me (in Tomb Raider games as well as many following a similar premise of Indiana Jonesing ancient puzzle monuments - Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, some bits of Far Cry…) was when the solution to the ancient puzzle either involves the state of disrepair of the ancient monument itself (what, the ancients just knew that bit of ceiling would fall here, making a convenient platform to reach this here button ? How did they do it back then, hoverboard ?), requires the use of modern tools or causes massive disruption to the structure - a giant statue toppling, the earth cracking open, the valley getting flooded, the whole structure catching on fire… Double points if all that destruction is only so that the hero can open an area that the ancients would have needed to open a number of times in their lifetimes, whether it’s a temple (priests need to go priesting in there, at least), a treasure chamber that we know accumulated wealth over time (somebody has to drop loot once in a while), a place where multiple generations of kings are buried (obvious issue there), some kind of Ancient Doodad that Does Shit (what, they had something to Do Shit with, and they built their civilization by Doing Shit, but the Do Shit Thing is in a place that can never be accessed ? Did they suddenly decide never to Do Shit ever again ? When has *that *happened ? Shit, we still have vials of the Black Plague around just in case…) etc…

Once upon a time I used to only think about that stuff in Fridge Logic time, but these days and because it’s been in so many games, I find myself intensely rolling my eyes as it happens. Which is not a good way to enjoy your epic architectural breakage/splosion, Mr. Games Developer.

For that matter, why is there a puzzle to get in at all? If they want it to be easy to get in, leave the door open. If they want it to be hard to get in, then just build a solid wall with no door that can open by any means short of explosives. If they want it to be easy for the right people to get in but hard for the wrong people to get in, OK then, you want a lock, and maybe it’s a combination lock, but you only give the combination to the right people. You don’t make the combination the answer to a riddle that you write right on the door.

Titan Quest had a system of “If they’re holding/wearing it, you can take it”. The net result was sifting through piles of garbage armor and weapons for the one or two things perhaps worth taking (though you could set it to highlight items above a set tier).

The Elder Scrolls games are like that. Everything can be picked up and most of it is worthless.